For Immediate Release
March 4, 2008
In Support of Diving with Sharks
Shark Savers, a New York-based grassroots conservation group, has partnered with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Blue Sphere Media to rally the support of the diving community by releasing a petition in favor of the right to dive with sharks without cages.
The coalition developed the petition in response to the media's reaction to the recent fatal, tragic accident in which a diver died in the Bahamas after being bitten by a shark. The dive community was deeply saddened by the news. In addition, many were taken aback at the news because, contrary to popular misconceptions, human accidents involving sharks are extremely rare, especially when diving with them. Before this week's accident, no known fatalities had occurred in the decades of commercial shark diving expeditions.
The petition, housed at www.sharksavers.org, has garnered more than 500 signatures to date and provides conservationists, divers, photographers, filmmakers, and others throughout the world an opportunity to express their continued support for shark diving, responsible shark diving operations, and the sharks themselves.
Contrary to common perceptions of sharks as ‘man-eaters', people who have gone diving with sharks, including many of the petition signers, describe sharks as ‘intelligent and peaceful', ‘charismatic', ‘magnificent', and ‘non-aggressive' to humans.
Some of the petition signers note that sharks are large wild animals and that, when humans step into the sharks' habitat, there is some risk involved. A frequent comment suggests that with proper safety protocols, a high level of diving experience, and guidance from a reputable dive operation, the risk is small when compared to the reward of an up-close encounter with one of these great co-inhabitants of our planet.
The petition was met with an outpouring of support for Jim Abernethy, on whose expedition the fatal accident took place. Many of the divers discussed their own personal admiration for Mr. Abernethy and the rigorous safety protocols he employs in his shark diving expeditions.
Shark Savers' co-founder and director, Julie Andersen, along with Sea Shepherd's Executive Director Kim McCoy, recently spent a week on Abernethy's boat, the Shear Water, diving with the sharks of the Bahamas. Andersen and McCoy were joined by fellow shark conservationist friends Rob Stewart, Director of Sharkwater; Alison Kock, Marine Biologist with the Save Our Seas Foundation; and Shawn Heinrichs, owner of Blue Sphere Media. The entire trip was captured on film, as part of the Shark Angels project.
Surrounded by a dozen large tiger sharks and over 50 lemon sharks outside of the cage, the Shark Angels team experienced first hand what it was like to dive with Abernethy's operation and with large, predatory sharks. "My experience was amazing and completely contrary to what most people have been programmed to think about sharks," said Andersen. "They literally went out of their way to avoid causing us any harm."
A scuba diver for 14 years, Andersen has logged hundreds of dives and has spent countless hours underwater with sharks. "Jim is the singularly most responsible dive operator and passionately committed shark conservationist I have ever met."
The team's experience and the footage they captured is being shared with responsible media outlets throughout the world.
"We filmed Shark Angels in November to shift the public's thinking about sharks and raise awareness of their desperate struggle to overcome extinction. It also clearly highlights Jim Abernethy's commitment to safety and captures the non-aggressive and magnificent interactions between sharks and divers," stated Heinrichs.
"Operations like Jim Abernethy's in the Bahamas allow tens of thousands of divers to safely go beyond the constraints of cages and responsibly experience compelling shark interactions. As a diver, photographer, and shark conservationist, I urge everyone to sign this petition. For the preservation of the species, we need to ensure we can continue to enjoy this unique experience," remarked Andersen.
Shark Savers considers shark diving, while a personal choice, an effective and powerful conservation tool. Each of the organization's six founders have themselves enjoyed positive close encounters with large sharks while diving. It is that experience that brought them together to create Shark Savers as a way to reverse the alarming rate of man's extermination of sharks.
McCoy agrees. "Shark diving expeditions enable individuals to develop a healthy respect and compassion for sharks - a dramatic reversal of the image of sharks portrayed in popular culture and media. This compassion is essential if mankind is to fight to preserve the critical role of sharks in the ocean's ecosystem."
In addition to the petition, a fact sheet that addresses the myths and misconceptions about the incident, shark diving, and sharks has been posted on the Shark Savers site in the hopes of providing the press and public with another perspective - and validated information.
The petition is addressed to The Bahamas Diving Association and the Ministry of Tourism. The Bahamas is also one of the few places in the world where diving with large, predatory sharks is still possible. Sea Shepherd, Shark Savers, Blue Sphere Media, and the hundreds of signatories on the petition urge the Bahamas Diving Association and Ministry of Tourism to preserve and advocate for responsible shark diving.
Petition may be found at:
Comments may be found at:
To learn more about Shark Angels:
Shark Savers (www.sharksavers.org) is an international non-profit membership based organization seeking to increase awareness, educate people, bring organizations together, and empower a grassroots effort to protect and sustain sharks on a global scale.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (www.seashepherd.org) is an international non-profit organization specializing in marine wildlife conservation. Sea Shepherd directly intervenes against the illegal slaughter of marine animals worldwide and operates under the UN World Charter for Nature to uphold international conservation laws.
Blue Sphere Media (www.bluespheremedia.com) is inspired by the ocean's natural wonders. Its mission is to bring a voice to creatures of the ocean, to educate people on the beauty of this world and to take a stand in protecting the largest and most diverse ecosystem on the planet.